Corporate Identity

In Kevin Tobia (ed.), Experimental Philosophy of Identity and the Self. Bloomsbury. pp. 203-216 (2022)
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Any effort to specify identity conditions for corporations faces significant challenges. Corporations are amorphous. Nature draws no hard lines defining where they start or stop, whether in space or time. Corporations are also frustratingly dynamic. They often change the most basic aspects of their composition by exchanging parts, splitting and merging, changing ownership, and reworking fundamental internal operations. Even so, we apply corporate identity conditions all the time. Both law and common intuition recognize that corporations do things—like pollute environments or mislabel addictive medications—that call for judgment. Imposing judgment on corporations presupposes some implicit view of corporate identity that allows us to say, “This corporation that we now judge is the same one that misbehaved.” This chapter draws on evidence from court decisions and experimental philosophy to unpack the fundamentally different visions of corporate identity implicitly encoded in law and in common intuition. The discrepancies suggest important lessons for lawmakers and corporate managers.

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Mihailis E. Diamantis
University of Iowa


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